|Publication number||US6911826 B2|
|Application number||US 10/727,401|
|Publication date||Jun 28, 2005|
|Filing date||Dec 3, 2003|
|Priority date||Jun 12, 2001|
|Also published as||EP1538441A1, EP1538441B1, US20040245997|
|Publication number||10727401, 727401, US 6911826 B2, US 6911826B2, US-B2-6911826, US6911826 B2, US6911826B2|
|Inventors||Yuri Alexeyevich Plotnikov, Thomas James Batzinger, Shridhar Champaknath Nath, Sandeep Kumar DEWANGAN, Carl Stephen Lester, Kenneth Gordon Herd, Curtis Wayne Rose|
|Original Assignee||General Electric Company|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (22), Non-Patent Citations (2), Referenced by (42), Classifications (10), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This is a continuation in part of application Ser. No. 09/681,824, filed Jun. 12, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,720,775 which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
The present invention generally relates to nondestructive evaluation of metallic structures and, more particularly, is concerned with pulsed eddy current linear and two-dimensional sensor array probes for electrically conducting component inspection.
As the commercial and military aircraft fleets age, the development of reliable and accurate techniques for inspecting aircraft components become increasingly important. Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) of aircraft components is used to inspect aircraft components, while maintaining aircraft and component integrity. Corrosion and fatigue are potential sources of damage to the airframe, which may cause subsurface flaws. The presence of both surface cracks and subsurface flaws in metallic structures, such as aircraft skin structures, have the potential to lead to component failure. Various inspection methods have been used for crack and flaw detection with varying degrees of success.
One prior art inspection method uses eddy current probes, which can give an indication of depth to ascertain crack and flaw severity in conducting components. More particularly, eddy current inspection with harmonic excitation is a commonly used technique for nondestructive testing of aircraft skin. Eddy current inspection is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction. Typically, a drive coil is employed to induce eddy currents into the material under inspection. A magnetic field sensor such as inductive coil, Giant Magnetoresistive (GMR) sensor or Hall effect element detects secondary magnetic fields resulting from the eddy currents. The depth of the induced eddy currents depends on the frequency of the excitation current. Low frequency eddy currents can penetrate several conductive layers of a layered structure, which is advantageous for inspecting aircraft structures, such as lap joints, relative to other inspection techniques, such as ultrasonic and thermal inspection methods, which require mechanical or thermal coupling between the layers, respectively.
A variety of approaches have been proposed to increase the sensitivity and convenience of eddy current inspection. For example, the pulsed eddy current inspection technique was developed to overcome problems of conventional eddy current inspection associated with harmonic (sinusoidal) excitation. An example of this approach is given in the article “Measurement of Coating Thicknesses by Use of Pulsed Eddy Current” written by Donald L. Waidelich and published in the Nondestructive Testing Journal in 1956, pages 14-15. More recently, U.S. Pat. No. 6,037,768, entitled “Pulsed Eddy Current Inspections and the Calibration and Display of Inspection Results,” describes a method for forming eddy current images from data acquired by a single probe using pulsed excitation. However, U.S. Pat. No. 6,037,768 is directed to inspecting a sample for flaws by mechanically scanning a single probe in two dimensions. Naturally, achieving full coverage with a single eddy current probe is very time consuming.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,124,712, entitled “Apparatus and Method for Imaging Metallic Objects Using an Array of Giant Magnetoresistive Sensors,” describes application of a two-dimensional array of GMR sensors for graphical representation of detected metallic objects. U.S. Pat. No. 6,150,809, entitled “Giant Magnetoresistive Sensors and Sensor Arrays for Detection and Imaging of Anomalies in Conductive Materials,” describes the use of GMR sensors for nondestructive evaluation of conductive materials. However, these patents are not directed to the use of pulsed eddy currents, nor to data collection and processing techniques that can be used to form a two-dimensional image of a detected flaw.
Consequently, a need still exists for an innovation that will improve the productivity of eddy current inspection of airframes to permit detailed, periodic inspection of aircraft. Moreover, there exists a need for an improved eddy current inspection technique to achieve full coverage of the inspection area, to inspect for subsurface defects and defects in layered components, and to efficiently form two-dimensional images of detected flaws.
Briefly, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a pulsed eddy current (PEC) sensor probe is described. The PEC sensor probe includes a sensor array board and a number of sensors arranged on the sensor array board. The sensors are operable to sense and generate output signals from the transient electromagnetic flux in a part being inspected. Each of the sensors has a differential output with a positive and a negative output. The PEC sensor probe also includes at least one drive coil disposed adjacent to the sensors and operable to transmit transient electromagnetic flux into the part being inspected. A first multiplexer is arranged on the sensor array board and is operable to switch between the sensors. A second multiplexer is also arranged on the sensor array board and is operable to switch between the sensors. The first multiplexer is connected to the positive outputs of the sensors, and the second multiplexer is connected to the negative outputs of the sensors.
Another PEC sensor probe embodiment is also described. The PEC sensor probe includes a number of sensor array boards. A number of sensors are arranged in a linear array on each of the sensor array boards and are operable to sense and generate output signals from the transient electromagnetic flux in the part being inspected. Each of the sensors has a differential output with a positive and a negative output. The PEC sensor probe also includes a number of drive coils disposed adjacent to the sensors, which are operable to transmit transient electromagnetic flux into the part being inspected, and a number of first and second multiplexers. Each of the first and second multiplexers is arranged on a respective one of the sensor array boards and is operable to switch between the sensors on the respective sensor array board. Each of the first multiplexers is connected to the positive outputs of the sensors on the respective sensor array board, and each of the second multiplexers is connected to the negative outputs of the sensors on the respective sensor array board. The sensor array boards are arranged to form a two-dimensional sensor array.
A method embodiment is also described. The method of inspecting a part includes positioning a linear array of sensors adjacent to a surface of the part. Each of the sensors has an axis of sensitivity aligned substantially normal to the surface of the part. The method further includes generating a magnetic flux that is oriented in a direction substantially along the axis of sensitivity of the sensors to transmit transient electromagnetic flux into the part, and sensing the transient electromagnetic flux in the part being inspected and generating a differential output signal using one of the sensors. The generation of the magnetic field and the sensing and generating the differential output signal using one of the sensors are repeated for at least a subset of the sensors in the linear array, to acquire a number of the differential output signals. Each of the differential output signals includes a positive and a negative output.
Another method embodiment is also described. The method of inspecting a part includes positioning a two dimensional sensor array adjacent to a surface of the part. The two dimensional sensor array includes a number of linear arrays of sensors. Each of the linear arrays is disposed on a respective sensor array board, and each of the sensors has an axis of sensitivity aligned substantially normal to the surface of the part. The method further includes generating a magnetic flux that is oriented in a direction substantially along the axis of sensitivity of the sensors to transmit transient electromagnetic flux into the part, and sensing the transient electromagnetic flux in the part being inspected and generating a differential output signal using one of the sensors. The generation of the magnetic field and the sensing and generating the differential output signal using one of the sensors are repeated for at least a subset of the sensors in respective ones of at least a subset of the linear arrays, to acquire a number of the differential output signals. Each of the differential output signals includes a positive and a negative output.
These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood when the following detailed description is read with reference to the accompanying drawings in which like characters represent like parts throughout the drawings, wherein:
A pulsed eddy current (PEC) sensor probe 10 embodiment of the invention is described with reference to
The PEC sensor probe 10 further includes a first and a second multiplexer 18, 19 arranged on the sensor array board 12. An exemplary multiplexer 18, 19 is an analog multiplexer 18, 19. The multiplexers 18, 19 are operable to switch between the sensors 14, as indicated for example in FIG. 4. For example, the multiplexers 18, 19 switch the sensors 14 using signal lines 28 that extend between each of the sensors 14 and the multiplexers 18, 19. As shown in
In order to connect the PEC sensor probe 10 to other devices, the PEC sensor probe 10 further includes a connector 22 operable to connect the multiplexers 18, 19 to an external device 23, as shown for example in FIG. 5. For example, the connector 22 connects to the multiplexers 18, 19 through connections 30 on the sensor array board 12, as indicated in
According to one embodiment, customized software stored in the computer 23 controls the data acquisition, processes the acquired data and displays the results, for example on a monitor (not shown). For example, the computer sends the exemplary control signals shown in
For the embodiment of
For the embodiment of
Another pulsed eddy current (PEC) sensor probe 40 embodiment is described with reference to
For the exemplary embodiment of
For the exemplary embodiment of
Activation of the drive coils 16 is described with reference to FIG. 6. As shown in
The following are exemplary fabrication processes for the PEC sensor probes 10, 40. GMR sensors 14 may be formed on printed circuit boards 12 using complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) deposition techniques or in die form. According to a particular embodiment, the GMR sensors 14 are closely spaced to one another, for example separated by as little as 0.5 mm. Beneficially, forming the GMR sensors 14 in die form, as compared with IC form, permits high-density deposition of the GMR sensors 14, which in turn facilitates the use of smaller PCBs 12 and thus smaller PEC sensor probes 10, 40. In addition, closer spacing between the GMR sensors 14 improves the resolution of the probe. More particularly, the GMR sensors 14 are positioned near the edge 13 of the printed circuit board (PCB) 12 with their axis of sensitivity 15 oriented perpendicular to the edge 13 of the PCB 12.
An inspection method embodiment of the invention is described with reference to
A transient electromagnetic signal obtained from a sensor 14 depends on its position relative to the drive coil 16 and on the geometry of the part 20 under the sensor 14. The probe 10, 40 is nulled on a reference region of the part 20, which is known to be flawless, and the transient responses of each of the sensors 14 is recorded, for example in a computer 23. During inspection, a response signal is compared to the signal obtained for the sensor 14 during the nulling phase, for example the response signal is subtracted from the signal obtained during the nulling phase. The resulting image of the flaw is based on the variations among the signal differences for the sensors 14 in the linear array 24.
According to a more particular embodiment, the inspection method further includes indexing and storing the differential output signals to indicate the respective sensors 14 used to generate the differential output signals. For example, the differential output signals are indexed by sensor 14 and stored in a data acquisition unit 23, such as a computer 23. Beneficially, by indexing the differential output signals for storage, the data is correlated with the respective sensors 14 used to collect the data. This in turn correlates the data with the spatial coordinates.
According to a more particular embodiment, a calibration curve is generated for each of the sensors 14. Exemplary calibration curves are shown in
Beneficially, use of an informative parameter S provides a stable output because it is computed over a large time value, that is, it is computed for a number of data points. As discussed in commonly assigned, copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/681,824, filed Jun. 12, 2001, a wide variety of algorithms can be used to compute the informative parameter for the sensors 14. One exemplary informative parameter S that can be used to form an image is the mean of the signal difference U during a fixed time interval t1−t2:
Another exemplary informative parameter S can be computed by using a sine filter by convolving the signal difference U(i,j,n) with the sin( ) function:
Because the informative parameter S defined by the equation (2) is not sensitive to the constant level bias of the signal U, this algorithm was found to be effective in presence of an external magnetic field with constant level during the measurement cycle. In other words by computing the informative parameter using the sine filter, the different DC offsets associated with each of the respective sensors 14 is removed. These DC offsets are caused by static magnetic fields and the bias voltage of the signal circuits. Application of the discrete sine transform further provides low pass filtration of the transient signal. More generally, other discrete transforms (Fourier, Laplace, wavelet, etc.) applied in the time domain can also be used to compute the informative parameter S.
Beneficially, application of the sine transform to the signal from each of the sensors 14 plus the application of individual calibration functions provides high-quality imaging as well as quantitative assessment of part thickness. For example, to obtain a quantitative assessment of the wall thickness of a part, data is acquired, each spatial coordinate is indexed to identify the sensor 14 number corresponding to this point, the informative parameter is computed for each spatial coordinate (i.e., for each sensor 14), and the calibration curve for the respective sensor is applied yielding the wall thickness estimate for the respective spatial coordinate. By repeating these steps for each of the spatial coordinates (i.e., for each of the sensors 14), the wall thickness is determined for all spatial coordinates within the scan.
Another inspection method embodiment of the invention is described with reference to
The inspection method may further include indexing and storing the differential output signals to indicate the respective sensors 14 used to generate the differential output signals, as discussed above. In addition, the inspection method may further generating a calibration curve for each of the sensors 14 in the two dimensional array 27, calculating a number of informative parameter values for the differential output signals, where each of the informative parameter values is associated with a respective one of the sensors 14 in the two dimensional sensor array 27, and comparing the informative parameter values with the respective calibration curves to calibrate the sensors 14.
As explained in commonly assigned, copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/681,824, a two-dimensional image may be formed by assigning a gray level to the amplitude of an informative parameter S that is computed for each individual sensor 14 in the two-dimensional array 27. Each element (pixel) of the image is located according to the spatial position of the sensor 14 in the array 27. Using a color map (also called a color palette), a color image is formed as the color values are given to each pixel of the gray scale image from the corresponding look-up tables.
For the exemplary embodiment of
Although only certain features of the invention have been illustrated and described herein, many modifications and changes will occur to those skilled in the art. It is, therefore, to be understood that the appended claims are intended to cover all such modifications and changes as fall within the true spirit of the invention.
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|U.S. Classification||324/529, 324/242, 324/238, 324/240, 324/262|
|International Classification||G01B7/00, G01B7/34, G01N27/90|
|Apr 12, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:PLOTNIKOV, YURI ALEXEYEVICH;BATZINGER, THOMAS JAMES;NATH, SHRIDHAR CHAPKNATH;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015198/0467;SIGNING DATES FROM 20031222 TO 20040211
|Mar 23, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LESTER, CARLK STEPHEN;HERD, KENNETH GORDON;ROSE, CURTIS WAYNE;REEL/FRAME:016376/0395;SIGNING DATES FROM 20031222 TO 20040211
|Dec 29, 2008||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Dec 28, 2012||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8